“What is that shrubby plant with the lovely red flowers”, I have been asked during the spring to summer time of the year. It is Punica granatum or the Pomegranate, a bushy round-headed tree that can grow to 4 to 5 metres high. In spring to early summer it can cover itself in beautiful, crumpled, fine-petalled, crimson flowers, which when pollinated develop into cricket ball sized, leathery skinned fruit. When mature in the autumn these fruit are yellow to red skinned and inside are many seeds each surrounded by carmine-pink flesh with a sweetly acid flavour.
The fruit can be eaten out of hand but care needs to be taken that the dividing cell walls are not eaten as they tend to be bitter. Some people eat them with sugar or salt but I like them as they are. The fleshy seeds are very ornamental and can be used as decoration on deserts, cakes etc. Juices and syrups can also be made. Grenadine, a sweet, pink syrup, was originally made from pomegranates but generally now other substitutes are used. The rind of unripe fruit and the flowers give a red dye.
Pomegranates make good tub plants as they can stand quite dry conditions; in fact dry, warm conditions are best for fruit development and flavour. In autumn the fruit requires a dry time to mature, if not the rain causes the fruit to split. The plant can be deciduous or evergreen and will stand some frost but will not set fruit in colder areas. Naturally the plant grows around the Mediterranean through to northwest India
Pliny called the pomegranate the “Apple of Carthage”, Granada in Spain is thought to have been called after the fruit. Many references are given to it in different religions.
Double flowered ones are very ornamental but don’t set fruit. Bicoloured flowering plants also occur. Pomegranates are tough little bushy tree which always creates interest.